College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | It’s important to celebrate diversity

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, March 7, 2024 - 2:00pm

A deep commitment to freedom of expression and an unwavering dedication to transparent discussion of all viewpoints — those that we agree with and those that we don’t — are core values of the College of the Redwoods. We believe that through engagement, authentic communication, and sharing of ideas we can find a way out of divisive rhetoric and build bridges between people.

We demonstrate this commitment every day inside and outside of the classroom. We ask our students to reason outside of their comfort zones and listen and connect with others. Our faculty encourages the exploration of different viewpoints, endeavors to broaden our students’ knowledge and experience, helps students learn new ways of thinking, acquires problem-solving skills, and contributes to the solutions of concrete needs in society and the world.

I know that connecting with others that we may not agree with can be challenging. It can also be very impactful. Allow me to share a recent example. I had a conversation with some community members last month about diversity and the celebration of Black history. The community members suggested that highlighting diversity among Americans is perpetuating the divisive rhetoric about race and separateness.

The conversation recalled a Christian Science Monitor article I read a few years ago that echoed the same sentiments. The article, titled “Can diversity be ‘too much of a good thing’? More Americans wonder.” (Jan. 24, 2020) examined the idea that diversity as a strength has gained a lot of traction in our society, but wondered if it was also undermining the idea of a set of core American values such as individual rights, freedom of speech, religion, and a free press. The article reports that many Americans worry that, without this unifying ethos, we risk descending into tribalism and factions.

As I reflected on the community members’ perspective and the above-mentioned article, I could not help but conclude that their viewpoints are not uncommon and might be compelling when we consider our current political situation.

However, I have to say, that I don’t agree. I believe that celebrating our diversity is important because it prevents us from believing the antiquated and narrow definitions of who Americans are. This is especially true when there is a segment of our society that is uncomfortable with an increasingly diverse society.

I’d like to share a scholarly study that I believe provides valuable insights into the impact of diversity on organizations and democratic principles. “Does Diversity Hurt Democracy?” by M. Steven Fish and Robin S. Brooks, available at, delves into a detailed examination of how different forms of diversity, including ethnic, linguistic, and religious, influence the governance of countries, particularly in terms of democracy. Surprisingly, their study challenges the common belief that having a diverse mix of ethnic and cultural groups might hinder the establishment and maintenance of democratic rule, suggesting that such diversity can contribute positively to democratic principles.

I am proud that CR’s Multicultural and Equity Center joined other higher education institutions across the nation to commemorate Black history last month. The center held a vigil for those who have died due to police brutality, hosted a poetry open mic and presentation on the Black Renaissance, discussed the 2016 film about mass incarceration “The 13th,” and our students led a workshop titled “Exploring Figures in Black History.”

Diversity and unity are not entirely at odds. I know that in our classrooms, faculty encourage students to find a way to celebrate our diversity and heterogeneity while also seeking to find common ground by recognizing those things that unify us. To do anything else would be misguided. We cannot embrace the forces in our country and our community that see a political advantage to keeping us apart.

As we said in our Education Master Plan, while these nationwide challenges seem daunting, they represent a powerful opportunity for the College of the Redwoods to provide leadership. Making CR a more welcoming place for everyone is, and will remain, a top priority for CR’s Board of Trustees and Administration. As we continue to celebrate our differences, we will also do our best to live up to the American motto of “e pluribus unum,” or “out of many, one” included in the Great Seal of the United States.

Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.